Wednesday May 5th. Feng means ‘wind’ in Chinese, as well as ‘mad’, depending on which Chinese character you use. French and Cable commented on the strength of the wind on this part of the Silk route between Hami and Urumqi, and having just spent the best part of two days struggling against a gale force head wind I can now personally vouch for this fact. And there were moments when I thought I must be mad.
It was not helped today as I optimistically followed the new unopened G3 expressway to avoid traffic and rough ground, but then found myself trapped on it by a never ending fence and railings. As I was being channelled further and further away from the current main road, and up into the exposed and windy mountains, I was worried I might end up blown to bits in Barkul (on the other side of the hills). However to my relief the G3 eventually reunited with the main road just before my destination Yiwanquan.
After surviving the battle through the gale to arrive here, I feel it must be the location of the isolated inn stayed in by the Trio - ‘the wind blows with such force down this valley that whole caravans have perished, the carts being blown to pieces and the men and overwhelmed by the whirling sand.’
It is now also the location of a grand new toll gate, and Niyaz has found what must be the only sheltered spot for miles around, tucked in beside the attached police station. I was pleasantly surprised to be met by a welcoming delegation of police bearing bottled water and cakes, and they also lugged out water for the horses from the station!
I am sleeping in my straw nest again, but have paid for Niyaz to stay in one of the only lodging rooms.